Is Adam Shaheen's career with the Bears over?

Is Adam Shaheen's career with the Bears over?

The Bears pulled the plug on the Kevin White project a year ago, effectively putting an end to the 2015 seventh overall pick’s time in Chicago halfway through the 2018 season. White was active for only two of the Bears’ final nine games, playing five special teams snaps on Thanksgiving and then getting one final shot in a largely meaningless Week 17 trip to Minnesota. 

A key difference between White and Adam Shaheen — who was a healthy scratch on Sunday for the first time in his career — is White was not expected to be a critical part of the Bears’ offense in 2018. He was the team’s fifth receiver, behind the starting core of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller and versatile special teamer Josh Bellamy. His success or failure was never going to dictate much within the Bears’ offense. 

Shaheen, though, entered 2019 as the Bears’ top “Y” (in-line) tight end in an offense geared toward his position (the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, the two most similar offenses to the Bears, each have two tight ends on the field on about a third of their snaps). The Bears needed him to contribute as a run blocker and, at the least, be a receiving threat in the red zone. 

None of those things happened over the first eight games of 2019, with Shaheen trending from invisibility to liability. So the question for the 45th overall pick in 2017’s NFL Draft is: Where does he go from here in Chicago?

“We want all of our players to be able to be completely detailed and play hard and do everything they can to be the best player they can be,” coach Matt Nagy said, rather pointedly, when asked what Shaheen needed to do to be active on gamedays again. 

Compare what Nagy said about Shaheen to what he said about White the Monday after de-activating him last year: 

“Kevin’s worrying about doing what he can do as best as he can, and however that fits into what we do, he’ll do that. He’s been great. He really has.”

If White couldn’t get back on the field with his coach publicly praising him, what hope is there for Shaheen to get back on the field when his coach talks about the details and playing hard?

More specifically, tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride pointed to Shaheen’s issues as a run blocker in terms of footwork, pad level and finishing. Realistically, it’ll be difficult for Shaheen to show the kind of growth during practice over the next few weeks that would overcome what he put on tape in the Bears’ first eight games. 

When the Bears picked Shaheen from Division-II Ashland in the second round of 2017’s draft, general manager Ryan Pace lauded his athletic upside as a pass catcher. His run blocking skills were always going to have to be developed. But the receiving aspect of his game hasn’t come around, either — of the 136 tight ends taken in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft from 1999-2019, Shaheen’s 26 career receptions rank 111th. 

So that Shaheen was a second rounder doesn’t matter to the 2019 Bears and an offensive coaching staff that was not in place when he was picked. This team needs to get its best players on the field to fix one of the worst offenses in the NFL, and collectively coaches determined Shaheen is not one of those players. 

“I don’t ever really have that in my mind that he was a second round pick,” Gilbride said. “You’re just trying to get that guy to execute, whether he’s a second round pick, free agent, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is he going to help your football team win games. That’s why you have him on the team. So each week we go into the gameplanning meetings try to see who best helps us fit that role to help our football team.”

The Bears only owe Shaheen a little over $600,000 in 2020, per Spotrac, so money would not be a deterrent to cutting him three years into his four-year rookie contract (he’ll have been paid $4,639,556 by the end of the year). At this point, Shaheen’s future in Chicago doesn’t look promising, though he could get back on the field if, say, Trey Burton’s calf injury rules him out of Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. 

If Shaheen does play again, he needs to take advantage of the opportunity. Because time is running out for him and the Bears to make good on the upside they saw in him two and a half years ago. 

“As a competitor, you better want to do everything you can (to play again),” Gilbride said. “If it’s up to me to motivate him that’s exactly what I’ll tell him, as far as well, you’ve gotta compete, make sure that your skillset and what you bring to the table is enough to get you a suit on Sundays.” 

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Clippers coach and Chicago native Doc Rivers weighs in on Bears-Packers

USA Today

Clippers coach and Chicago native Doc Rivers weighs in on Bears-Packers

With Doc Rivers, Patrick Beverly and the Los Angeles Clippers in town to face the Bulls, you knew the question was coming. Both Rivers and Beverly are from Chicago and not shy about their affection for the city. 

"Do you and Pat talk about coming to Chicago?" a reporter asked, during Rivers' pregame media scrum, Saturday night.

"We talk about Chicago, probably every single day," Rivers said with a hint of a smile. "We talk about the Bears the most."

That led to Rivers rapid-fire addressing a number of ruminations on the current state of the Bears, including his respect for head coach Matt Nagy.

"I’m a big Bears fan. A big Nagy fan. I think he’s a terrific coach," Rivers said. "I just do, every once in a while you get a feeling about someone, and I have that about him."

High praise coming from Rivers, the 13th-winningest coach in NBA history and an NBA Finals champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.

Now, he coaches the third-winningest team in the league in the Clippers, but he still finds time to keep up with current Chicago affairs.

"[Beverly and I] talk about everything with Chicago. We talk about the dominance of Proviso East [Rivers' high school alma mater] over Marshall [Beverly's alma mater], and every other team. He doesn’t like that conversation very much," Rivers said.

He added that he even contemplated driving down for the Bears' Week 14 matchup with the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football (the Clippers were in town for a game with Milwaukee that Friday).

And as for tomorrow's crucial division game against the Packers, Rivers made his position abundantly clear.

"Well, you know what I think," Rivers said, when asked for a prediction for the contest. "Are you kidding me?"

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Bear PAWS: Overcoming bad mojo in Green Bay

Bear PAWS: Overcoming bad mojo in Green Bay

When we think about or hear the number “13,” it makes us reflect on any number of negative things that could possibly happen in a given situation. We imagine black cats crossing our path and shattered mirrors creating bad luck environments. Even Jason Voorhees, a boogeyman character from the “Friday the 13th” franchise, enters our mindset, unnerving us with portents of doom and unfortunate circumstance.

Thirteen generates an apprehension similar to the feeling most Bears fans get when the team goes to Green Bay and “has” to win important, playoff-qualifying games. Sometimes numbers, the stars and our fates align with the weird and unexplainable, producing outcomes that are inexplicable. Fortunately, we can use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics) to explain how No. 13 and Green Bay may disrupt the Bears’ immediate future.

After 13 games this season, the Packers are ranked 13th both in scoring offense (300 points) and defensive points allowed (270). Coincidence? I think not! Mysteriously, this year’s first game — played to kick-start the NFL’s 100th season —  ended with a grand total of 13 points scored collectively between the rivals. Strangely, the Packers produced 13 first downs in a victory, while Chicago generated 16 first downs, yet still lost. During the same game, Packers running back Aaron Jones led all rushers with 39 yards on...13 carries! Conversely, the Bears’ passing attack led to 13 targets for wide receiver Allen Robinson (102 yards, no touchdowns), coupled with an interception in the endzone that cemented the outcome.

Looking further down the rabbit hole, we find Packers’ wide receiver Allen Lazard, who wears jersey No. 13. Sure, he’s only seventh on the team in receptions (24) and fifth in receiving yards (349), but he’s second on the team in yards per reception (14.5) among players with 15 or more passes caught. Eerily, Lazard had his best pro game during Week 13, amassing 103 yards on three receptions (34.3 YPC), and one receiving touchdown. Yes, it's almost time to cue the shrieking violin music followed by inaudible whispered voices.

All is not gloom and doom for the Monsters of the Midway, as the Bears can still positively impact their playoff fate by beating the Packers on Sunday. Although Green Bay is 13th in scoring average (23.8 PPG), Chicago averaged 24.7 PPG over their last three games to rank 12th in the league during that span. The Packers are completing passes at 64.5 percent, 13th in the NFL. The Bears completed exactly 70 percent of passes thrown in their last three contests, winning each game.

Green Bay, too, has its struggles with 13 and its negative effects. When it comes to third down conversions, the Packers are 13th-worst, converting only 35.7 percent of their chances. The Bears convert at a higher rate on the road (38.9%) and over the last three games, the Bears’ 43.2 percent conversion rate is top 10 in the NFL. The Packers have noticeably struggled stopping the opposition’s running attack. The Packers rank 25th in stopping the run, allowing 122.8 yards per game and are even worse at home, giving up 139.3 yards per contest at Lambeau Field.

Friday was Dec. 13, and while that may raise the hackles on one’s neck — or increase the number of goosebumps — each team must rise above superstition in order to win. The Bears can either look around for good omens to reveal themselves or they can beat the Packers by:

● Taking advantage of a Packers pass defense ranked 21st in passing yards allowed per game (245.1) - the Bears are ranked 13th, allowing 230.2 yards per game.

● Improve in red zone completion percentage. Last year, Mitch Trubisky was 13th in the league at 64.1 percent, while this season he has a lowly 53.2 percent rate (33rd in the NFL). 

●Stop or at least contain Jones. He’s averaging 13.5 rush attempts per game, and it’s the first time in his career he’s started all 13 games. The Packers are 14-11 when he starts.

Just like Jason Voorhees, Rodgers and the Packers are hard to finish off. The Bears must overcome this constant horror show by playing to their capabilities and not succumbing to indecision and thoughts of past failures. It’s far past time to put this Rasputin-like team to rest.

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